Neha Dhupia knows her mind, and we know when to shut up and listen. And when to stare. Join us, won’t you?
Welcome back to Maxim! We’re breaking records with you. How does it feel?
It’s amazing to be on the Maxim cover for the fifth time. As a joke, I already mentioned that it’s a lot of fun to be breaking at least one record of Priyanka Chopra, considering she’s been on the cover four times. But, really, all jokes aside, thank you so much for having me. You guys have a way of making every woman feel beautiful, sexy and confident, all at once.
Thank you, we try. What’s changed since the last time we met? Have you noticed changes within yourself?
Definitely. My dimensions have changed. I’m older, far more secure, much more confident and... I mean I’ve never been the kind of woman who loves myself but the older I get, the more confident I get. Yeah, I’m just happy that I’m on the cover again in 2018, which is reassuring. What has changed is my sense of comfort in the body I live in.
Self-love and body positivity are a crucial part of living a sane life today, and we’re staunch advocates. Do you agree?
I totally agree. I think it’s essential and, thanks to social media, more and more women are coming out with the fact that you don’t have to be skinny. More than anything else, you need to be in love with your body. The only way you can do that is if you have a fit body no matter what size it is. As long as it’s one that is fit, it’s one that makes you feel confident—and if you’re on Maxim, it’s one that is desirable—you should love it. I’m joking, of course. As long as you’re healthy, there is no reason to not love your body.
We love that you’re rocking some natural greys. Did you say you’ve never bothered covering them up? We imagine that takes
a lot of guts in the industry that you’re in.
It’s not a natural grey like you may think. I was born with it. I have a birth mark on the left side of my head where, literally, it’s a hashtag, one I have used for many years now, and it is #BornWithASilverStreak. So, yeah, I’ve literally been born with a silver streak on my head. The person I am, everything about me is natural so why would I cover a streak I was born with?
You’re known to be a no-nonsense, unfiltered talker. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do w.r.t. laying out the truth?
Cover it up! Of course, I’m no-nonsense and, of course, I’m no filter and it’s very hard for me to put up a pretence for more than five minutes. And all hell breaks loose inside my head. And, then, there’s a small explosion in my tiny brain. And, then, I can’t cover up being polite. One thing I really struggle with sometimes is when I have to deal with incompetency—that’s when I have absolutely no filter and I have no time for things and people who are incompetent. I love the sound of millennials but, somewhere, I feel that when I was in my 20s, I wasn’t so busy on social media. So I wish that there’s a slight shift and the millennials that I work with can stop checking their Instagram and can start focussing on the work that they do.
We agree. Has this candid, no-fucks-given attitude ever gotten you into trouble?
It’s very refreshing to the people I’m around and it’s very refreshing to me in my head, because I don’t go anywhere with any baggage. And my candid “I don’t give a fuck” attitude has a lot to do with the fact that I know where to draw the line. I would never end up hurting people, but I’m definitely to the point and it’s easier to live with somebody like me than it is to live with somebody who puts up an act all the time. I mean, in my defence! Has it gotten me into trouble? Yeah, maybe a few times. If I have hurt anybody with that attitude, I apologise, but I think they called for it at some point.
Having spent over a decade in the entertainment business, is it any different today than when you started?
Yeah, a lot has changed. I feel like a lot of professionalism has kicked in. A lot of corporate spirit has come in. People value time, their own and others’. Everybody is caught up and busy with a million things to do. That makes it a lot more easy to work with people, and I feel like anybody who is talented sooner or later ends up getting what they deserve. This is a great time for actors because there are so many different platforms—whether it is digital, or films, or television, or reality shows. Whatever it is, I think this is actually the best time for the people working in the industry.
What changes would you like to see, moving forward?
I’ve always agreed to the fact that, especially when we work, there is a unit of anything between 100 to 250 people and it is always 20 percent of the people who do the job for the other 80 percent. So the change that I would like to see on a set, whether it is a magazine shoot or whether it is film set, is the fact that not just the 20 percent work, but 100 percent of the people work. And then it’ll become a good place to be. I still see a lot of incompetence, there is a little bit of slack when it comes to paperwork or professionalism, or when it comes to just hiring the right people for the right jobs. But I guess it’s paid off. Somewhere down the line, everybody ends up getting work so it is not such a bad thing but a little more competence will be a good idea.
Your views on the gender pay-gap in the business, which seems to be the hot discussion. How have you dealt with it?
Whether it is my TV shows or whether it’s a film, I’ve seen women who are on a far more successful level of films than me suffer from that, because there are women-oriented films that do well and end up bringing collections at the box office. But a woman has to sort of prove herself again and again and again, and even then she doesn’t take home the same numbers; and when she does, it becomes a really big deal. Having said that, the gap is being bridged, but we still have a long way to go. That’s a problem even in the West and a lot of people are talking about it. The more you talk about it, and the more you think you deserve it, the more makers are going to give it to you.
Multifaceted would be an understatement for you. Is there anything Neha Dhupia can’t do?
Oh, there’s tonnes I can’t do! Firstly, thank you for the compliment of thinking that I’m multifaceted. For instance, I can never make up my mind. I take very long to take decisions and that’s what holds me back from doing a lot of things. But, apart from that, I’m pretty fearless so once I’ve made up my mind, I just dive into it and I see where life takes me, whether it’s my personal life or professional.
Are you a planner?
Am I a planner? No. But I’m a worrier. I worry about people, I worry about things, I worry about small things like hurting people or making the wrong decision. I’m a big sucker when it comes to family. I’m a “worry-er.”
So, is there a five-year plan?
I’d like to be an entrepreneur, so maybe in seven years I can see myself on the cover of a successful business magazine. In fact, the most successful one in the world, talking about the things I have achieved professionally. And, of course, continuously work towards doing good cinema. And if I have someone in my personal life, being good to him, being a good daughter, a good sister and a good friend. If my family grows, then being a good wife, a good mom. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next five to seven years but that’s pretty much what my plan is.
You’re a planner! What were you up to last night? Details, please.
I was watching the IPL and I waited till the last over, but I couldn’t stay up so I passed out with the TV on.
Night well spent. Does the fear of feeling jaded ever set in?
Actually, it is very surprising but I have been in the business for 17 years and that fear has not set in. But you continuously work towards something. The one thing I like to do and that doesn’t make me feel I’m jaded is that I always target the youth as my audience. I like to give them things that they like because they are the ones who define what entertainment is. They are the big spenders, they are the future and they kind of bring the trends in. So, I follow through the youth audience and then try to work towards it.
Would you classify yourself as lucky in love?
Depends on when you ask me that question. If you asked me that in 2016, I would have said no. If you ask me this question in 2018, I would say I’m borderline lucky. But don’t ask me who.
We never ask. How is dating in your 30s different from your 20s?
I’m just less painful as a person in my 30s and the guy doesn’t have to pick up my bills. So, it’s just better to date me in my 30s.
Who’s your current girl crush?
Gal Gadot and Gigi Hadid.
Excellent choices and we wholeheartedly concur. Women seem to love that Eat, Pray, Love thing. Would you want that adventure, or is it something you’ve already experienced?
I kind of have experienced it in tiny bits. Maybe not as expansive as in the book. But I have been to Italy and I have been on different pilgrimage things... well, not really ‘pilgrimage,’ but I’m very religious; so wherever I go, I try and go to a place of worship. But it’s not exactly pray. And, as far as love is concerned, I have had a little bit of an adventurous life so there is no shying away from that.
Where will we see you next?
Turn the page and I’ll probably be on the next page in Maxim. I’ve done a full feature, haven’t I?
STYLING BY KRISHNA MUKHI
ASSISTED BY NEHA PATIL
MAKE-UP BY ROSARIO BELMONTE
HAIR BY YOUNTEN SOMO
SHOT ON LOCATION AT WATERSTONES HOTEL, MUMBAI